Boston Celtics: 2 different explanations for the Robert Williams extension

Boston Celtics Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
Boston Celtics Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports /

The Boston Celtics have rewarded their franchise center with an extension, locking Robert Williams in for four more years beside Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart. His deal was well-deserved, and the price can be argued to be one of the biggest bargains of the offseason. The Cs are building a formidable and versatile core around their two stars, and Williams has proven he can be an integral part of the team’s long-term success.

However, given the Celts’ parameters established this offseason, putting more guaranteed money on the dock seems counterproductive to their long-term goals.

Sure, Williams and Smart represent plenty of production in the short term, but what happens when Beal rolls around and the Boston Celtics don’t have the cap space?

Ultimately the answer to those questions can only come from Brad Stevens himself, but that doesn’t mean speculation is out of the equation.

Robert Williams had some crazy flashes last season, ranging from blocking a James Harden three-pointer to dunking on multiple defenders at a time to hitting wild kick-outs when all seemed lost. The kid has talent, but considering his checkered injury history, it’s understandable why some believe Boston would wait on extending the big man.

Nonetheless, he’s locked in now, and some topics need to be covered in the aftermath.

The Boston Celtics believe in Robert Williams’ fit beside the Jays.

Putting Williams’ deal beside Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown’s deals seems like a big step for a guy who only had one good season. The fact that Brad Stevens and the Boston Celtics moved so quickly on Williams signals that they believe he can be the Cs’ center of the future. Although his sample size is relatively small, they had good reason to believe in the big man.

Last season, Williams had relatively underwhelming box score statistics that ballooned when adjusted for possession count. If Williams played the number of possessions the average starter plays, he would have averaged 15.5 points, 13.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.6 steals, and 3.4 blocks per game on absurd efficiency. In the few minutes he played, Williams was incredibly productive. His numbers translated to the win column, helping the Boston Celtics to a 12-4 record when he started in place of Tristan Thompson or Daniel Theis.

Getting into the nitty-gritty data, Williams and Jayson Tatum inflicted a six-point swing in the Celtics offense, inflating the club’s ORtg from 114 to 120, which would rank first in the league. The difference-makers between Williams and any other center Boston played was his dynamic finishing around the rim and unique passing ability.

Last season, Williams shot 78% at the rim on 7.2 attempts, more than any other player on the Celtics. On a team with a lot of jump-shooters, Williams’ ability to dive to the cup and finish at an efficient rate completely changed the trajectory of the Boston Celtics’ offense, and therefore how other teams guarded Jayson Tatum. It’s no coincidence that Tatum had his best scoring month once Williams was inserted into the starting lineup.

On top of his rim pressure, Williams displayed a unique ability to pass the ball at a high level for someone his size. Although his assist counts were low, Williams’ unique vision and acute touch can be seen on film. When doubled at the rim, he specialized in kicking the ball out to shooters and hitting dump-offs with great precision. Williams is no Jokic, but having a big that can move the ball can make Boston’s offense that much more dynamic, as we saw with Horford back in 2017.

The Boston Celtics are building a package for Bradley Beal.

It’s no secret the Boston Celtics are interested in their franchises’ best friend and St. Louis native, Bradley Beal. The Celts’ entire offseason has been about keeping their books clean by bringing in expiring contracts and only retaining their core players. Robert Williams is one of those players, but that does not necessarily mean he’s safe when acquiring Beal.

There’s a possibility Beal grows impatient as soon as the 2022 trade deadline, putting the Boston Celtics and every other team in a pickle. Luckily for the Cs, they’ve retained the necessary assets it would take to pry Beal from Washington, one of those assets being Robert Williams.

Boston can’t match the talent level of Beal without giving up Jaylen Brown, but seeing as it would be a lateral move to do so, the Celtics have prioritized loading up the war chest with ancillary assets. It’s unlikely any team ponies up the assets required to trade for Beal at the deadline, but if they do, the Celtics have put themselves in a position to outbid any foe by signing Williams to a long-term deal.

The hope is Williams becomes more than that, breaking out and establishing himself as a future center of the league, in which case the Celtics offer becomes that much more attractive to the Wizards.

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